tv Born in Wrong Body MSNBC March 31, 2012 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
the whole thing about being a woman was something i desired. i desired it like people desire riches, like a pot of gold. >> they made the biggest decision of their lives. >> it was like a choice between suicide or live as a female, and so i went for it. >> committed to it emotionally and physically. >> after two years of estrogen therapy, i followed up with some facial surgery that helped to demasculinize things like jawline, chin, nose, forehead. >> i didn't have to try and be a woman. it just came naturally. >> but what happens when you
change your gender then have a change of heart? >> i simply grew out of the feelings i had that made me want to live as a female. >> in a couple months, i'll be like a man again. i wonder if i'll be picking up where i left off, a 19-year-old boy, young man. will i pick up there? >> in one sense, this is a simple story of the search for
love and belonging. in another sense, a more obvious sense, it's a complicated tale of painful self-discovery and self-doubt. the kind of self-doubt that led a boy named charles to become a woman named judy, then 20 years later wonder if she did the right thing. >> i hope that i'll have as much success as a male as i've had as a female. it's a little bit scary. because when i left off being a male, it was scary being a male, and there's familiarity and safety in being a female. >> people who are transgender often say once they start living as the other gender, their lives start to make sense. they finally feel right. but after 20 years of living as a woman, an ultra-feminine erotic dancing bombshell, judy kirchner just didn't feel that way any more.
>> i'm hoping what i'm about to go through is going to be right for me. i have to have surgery to fix my chest, to look male again, and other than that, taking male hormones and cutting off all this. >> and so the dramatic transition judy went through two decades ago happened again. this time back to manhood. >> you know, one of the first things that i noticed as soon as i transitioned back to living as a male is i could walk the way
my body is like built to walk. you know, like kind of lumbering, guy steps. because before, you know, as a female, i always had to be conscious and be like walking like this, like very girly. >> at 40 years old, joseph didn't want to go back to being the troubled boy named charles. >> when i decided i didn't want to live as female anymore, it was time to take on another name, a new first name. so i asked my dad, and he says, well, my father's name is joseph, and you know, your grandfather before him was a joseph. so there's lots of josephs in the family. well, there you are. >> joseph's return to his original gender is extremely rare. the research on the topic is scarce. a 2003 study did reveal that 6% of male to female transgender people experienced occasional regret. but no one in the study returned
to live as a man. >> you know, it's quite an understatement to say what i've been through is out of the ordinary. and the life that i live now, for the rest of my life, is quite out of the ordinary. how many guys do you know that have anatomy that looks and functions like a female? >> but joseph is not alone. there are other transgender men and women who have had this serious change of heart. that said, that doesn't mean joseph regrets the decision he made more than 20 years ago to become a woman. >> regret? regret's a big word to me. that i try to work around and sidestep. i would like to think this, as a person who's gone through a revolution. you know, they've evolved. inside as a person, i've grown,
and i just -- i simply grew out of the feelings i had that made me want to live as a female. >> in joseph's case, the murkiness of his gender identity may be understandable. that's because, when he was born, it wasn't exactly clear to the doctor who delivered him. >> when i exited the womb, they didn't know whether to say congratulations, it's a boy or congratulations, it's a girl because of my genitalia appeared ambiguous. >> roughly 1 in every 2,000 babies are born with noticeably atypical genitalia, a condition known as intersex. >> intersex is more of a kinder word that replaces the word like hermaphrodite. >> a specialist was brought in to determine joseph's sex. and when it was decide d he appeared more male than female,
surgery was performed to cement his life as a boy. >> the testicle that was actually removed when i was a year old, it had formed somewhere between a testicle and an ovary. >> joseph wasn't told of the surgery or his condition. not until he was an adult. he spent his childhood confused and isolated. >> i remember i used to pray every year before school would start, i'd be like, oh, dear god, please let me fit in this time. please let me fit in. you know, like hopefully somehow things would have changed over the summer. it will be a new lease on life the next year, and i'd have friends. i'd fit in, and everything would be normal. but it never quite worked out that way. >> puberty only compounded his painful existence. >> when i was 12 years old, my chest grew. i grew breasts, you know. not huge ones. kids would tease me. why do you [ muted ]? and i'd be very embarrassed. >> despite all of this, joseph
tried his best to be one of the boys, dating girls, and forcing himself to curb his effeminate nature. but by his teens, it was clear it was not girls he desired. >> i'd had my first boyfriend at 17, and i realized, okay, that's the answer. i've figured it out. i'm gay. i'd lived for a couple years from 17 to 19, socialized, made a lot of gay friends, went out to gay bars, had a good time. but yet i still felt like somehow i didn't fit in. >> the discord began to eat away at joseph. being gay didn't seem to answer why he was at such odds with himself, and in the end his internal struggle about who he really was had a surprising solution. >> it just seemed like it would be so much easier to live as a female because it would fit more of my personality, my
gestures, everything. i'd already had two suicide attempts because i was so unhappy with my life. it was like a choice between suicide or live as a female. and so i went for it. >> coming up, another man's dramatic transformation. >> i actually, in my mind, in my presence, in my spirit, was 100% female. >> and his life-altering change of heart. >> i never dreamed in my wildest dreams that they would want to change me back into a guy because what does that have to do with spirituality? are frieny but some have had a hard time understanding my accent. so to make sure people get every word of the geico savings message i've been practicing how to talk like a true chicagoan. switching to geico could save you hundreds of dollars on car insurance... da bears. haha... you people sure do talk funny. geico®. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more
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that i would ever have any desire to return to living as a male. >> more than 20 years ago, joseph kirchner's mind was made up. if he couldn't live his life as a woman, he didn't want to live at all. >> i was like a speeding locomotive headed towards my goal. i didn't have any doubts at all that this was what i wanted. >> at 19 years old, with steely determination, he began the long journey to transform into a flawlessly beautiful woman. the process of becoming judy was intense. >> i started estrogen therapy at 19. after two years of estrogen therapy, i followed up with some facial surgery that helped to demasculinize, you know, things like jawline, chin, nose, forehead, to make them appear more feminine. >> judy chose undeniably female 38-ddd breasts to fit her
six-foot frame and perfected a womanly walk and lady like gestures. she didn't want anyone to know she was once a boy. >> if you want to live a life of stealth where people don't know that you've had surgery, they think that you're born female, you are constantly kind of under the gun, you know, worried that somehow, some way somebody's going to find out, and you're going to be outed. >> but there is always one group of people who will know who you were, family. and like many in the transgender community, judy struggled to gain acceptance from them. >> my mother wasn't very happy with the decision i'd made to transition to living as female, and she kind of basically disowned me. >> still not everyone in judy's life disapproved of her life-altering decision. >> my grandmother wasn't judgmental. she didn't shun me. i wrote her a letter and told
her everything, what i was doing. and she just said, well, come on out to the house. the only thing she didn't like was my skirt was a bit short. >> short skirts were only the half of it. nearly five years into her transition, judy had become quite the bombshell, and she was not afraid to flaunt it despite still having male genitalia. >> i started out dancing in a go-go bar where you don't reveal anything. you wear just like a bikini on stage. yeah, there is the matter of hiding the male genitalia. it's a little difficult, you know, to be male down below and try to appear completely female on stage. >> erotic dancing made it possible for the final phase of judy's physical transformation, bottom surgery. seemingly, the point of no return. but judy was committed. >> there wasn't any apprehension that this was not the right
decision for me because i had a lot of supportive friends, other transgender people. i started seeing a therapist at age 17 for my gender and sexuality issues. so that was like seven years that i was in therapy before, you know, i finally went for surgery. >> most surgeons, including joseph's, who perform sexual reassignment surgery follow a set of legal and ethical standards of care. these clinical guidelines offer parameters for health professionals treating transgender patients. among the criteria for genital surgery, patients should live for a year as the desired gender, take hormones during that year, and provide two letters of recommendation from mental health professionals. judy followed the clinical guidelines, and it seemed to be the right choice. she lived for almost 20 years without doubting her decision. but for michael burke, his
change of heart was much more immediate. still the often impulsive, self-described lone wolf waited more than the suggested amount of time before undergoing breast surgery. >> i went to live as a woman for a complete year before i would do something that radical to begin with. you know, i didn't have a problem following the standards. i actually thought that they were very, very well written. >> michael's desire to be a woman was a fervent lifelong dream, and at the time of his transition, he had no doubt that he was making the right choice. >> the whole thing about being a woman was something i desired. i desired it like people desire riches, like a pot of gold. since grade school, i wanted -- i didn't want to be playing soccer and baseball with the boys. i wanted to be doing jump rope and hopscotch. you know, i just liked that role better than male role.
>> as a boy, michael's gender identity issue was compounded by learning disabilities and behavioral problems, which all made for a lonely and painful childhood. >> whether it be football, baseball, whatever, i was always the last one picked, you know, kind of situation. nobody wanted me on their team. it was just never-ending. i really never fit into the group. and that's why in college when i found the punk rock movement, i fit right in. we were all outcasts. >> michael drifted from one fringe group to the next, from punk rockers to street gangs, and eventually he developed a drug habit he was unable to control. >> i lived for years being a drug addict, you know, one thing to another, from here to san diego, from san francisco. most of the time miserably depressed. and feeling suicidal. >> michael eventually cleaned up
and found success working as a stage technician on big name acts like paula abdul and janet jackson. but his desire for womanhood continued to haunt him. finally, when a knee injury put him out of work, he was forced to face the core issue of his life. >> i got approved for disability my first try, which is something that's usually unheard of. so everything is going great in my life. i have this house. i mean, everything -- there's not a physical outside problem, and yet i'm suicidal. i'm suicidal because i want to be a woman and i'm not. so at that moment, in a split second, i decided right then and there that i was going to become a woman, and that was that. >> coming up, michael's overnight transition to the woman he always longed to be. >> i called up my therapist that morning and said, i'm coming as a woman to therapy today.
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i wasn't a part time transvestite that sometimes liked to dress up as a woman, sometimes i don't. i actually in my mind, in my presence, in my spirit, was 100% female. i literally was michelle. it was quite that simple. >> after a lifetime of yearning to be a woman, michael burke stepped into his transition swiftly and unapologetically. >> i called up my therapist that morning and said, i'm coming as a woman to therapy today. and she says, don't you think we ought to talk about this first?
i'm like, yeah, you're right. then i called her back two minutes later, and i'm like, no, warn your secretary. >> at almost 40 years old, michael rushed out, bought a wig and stormed his therapist's office in thrift store clothes and drug store makeup. >> i thought that if i tried to be a transsexual, i'd be the ugliest transsexual, but when it came to the point where i was in life when i decided to transgender, i didn't no longer care, you know. >> the next day without hesitation, michael, now michelle, headed down to one of her coffee spots to meet her friends. >> and the amount of courage that took to just -- not just transform overnight into a woman but to go right out into public right in front of your friends and say, this is who i'm going
to be from now on -- i think that's the most gutsy thing i ever done. >> michelle worked on her transition feverishly. she began hormone therapy, bonded long curly fire red hair to her head, and became a self-declared shopaholic. >> there in the bottom drawer a pair of michelle's favorite boots. and i like them because you can see the skin through the laces. and they have a four-inch heel. this closet had a lot of these full of skirts. i had the wardrobe of wardrobes. michelle didn't like to wear the same thing ever, you know. she'd mix and match. >> michelle also delighted in flaunting her beauty to the genetic girls. >> the makeup. i was just so natural at and good at. and i always got compliments from the women. can you do my makeup? how do you do that? and that was what was neat about it.
as michelle, i was hotter than most of the genetic girls that i hung out with. >> michelle enhanced her beauty with a brow lift, a nose job, and 36-d breasts. but even before the surgeries, michael says he felt like a real woman from the moment he stepped into public. >> i didn't have to try to be a woman. it just came naturally. i remember walking down del rey late at night, and there are two rednecks sitting there drinking beer, and as a girl walked by, they were rating them behind their back. i thought for sure they were going to pick up on it, and i was a little bit scared. before i was even ten feet from them, one dude's like 10. and the other guy was like definitely a 10. and that was just amazing. >> as a woman, michelle liked the attention.
but that didn't mean she desired men sexually. as a man, michael had always been interested in women, and that never changed. >> i feel like a male lesbian because i don't like normal male-female sexual tendencies. i'm more into caressing gentle, touching. and a guy and girl together, that's like a turn-off to me. when i watch how two women make love together, that's how i like to make love. >> michelle jokingly called her male genitalia snoopy, and for her, it was both the wrong equipment for the sex she wanted to enjoy and a daily burden. >> keeping snoopy in place at times got uncomfortable. i have to go to the bathroom for a readjustment. and also wearing a bikini at the beach, you know, or whatever, you have to, you know, be a lot more careful and everything.
and it was kind of a hindrance. more than anything that michelle wanted was to have the finances to complete the process. to become a genetic female. and live the rest of my life as a woman. >> but michelle's lifelong dream was abruptly halted when she made an impulsive decision that would change the course of her life. coming up, judy struggled to find happiness and the man of her dreams. >> i married a man who did not know that i had a gender change. [ male announcer ] what if you had thermal night-vision goggles, like in a special ops mission? you'd spot movement, gather intelligence with minimal collateral damage. but rather than neutralizing enemies in their sleep, you'd be targeting stocks to trade. well, that's what trade architect's heat maps do. they make you a trading assassin.
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drive-by shooting. marching on sanford, florida police headquarters today, calling for the arrest of george zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old trayvon martin. now back to our program. i had this dream, you know, the husband and married. the little house with the white picket fence, the dog running in the yard. you know, all that stuff. >> at age 24, judy kirchner had accomplished her complicated goal of physically becoming a woman. and what she longed for was the happily ever after. that proved more than difficult to achieve. >> many transgender people will tell you it's hard. you can't just go out and date a straight guy. you know, at what point do you tell him? do you tell him right away?
it's like, oh, hi. my name's judy. i'm a transsexual. would you like to go on a date? no, it's really -- it's a difficult situation. >> as hard as it was, judy managed to meet a man, started dating, and at 25 got married. but she didn't exactly come clean with her new husband about her personal history. >> i married a man who did not know that i had a gender change. he thought i was female from birth, and after i married him, i realized i can't do this. i cannot do this. the pressure was too great. >> judy got divorced after six months, never revealing the secret of her past. two years later she married again, but this time she put her cards on the table. >> i got past the marry somebody without telling them phase. i put a tell-all personal ad in the personal sections, and out of like 30 or so guys that
responded to the ad, one in particular stood out. >> but the union ended three years later in a second divorce. devastated, judy still believed she could find her happy ending and wound up bouncing from one short-lived relationship to another. but as each one failed and the years marched on, doubt began to creep in. not just about love and marriage, but about her decision to find happiness as a woman. >> i just felt so exhausted, you know, me chasing my dreams, wanting my dreams to come true. i was just very discouraged and disheartened. so i began to do some really deep soul searching about myself and who i was. and i started to investigate, you know, and educate myself more on gender identity, sexuality issues, and i just came to the decision that this life living as a female was not
genuine for me. >> but judy didn't like some of the realities that living her life as a man would bring. >> i thought, okay, well, i'm going back to live as a male. will i be a homosexual male? i guess so. you know, i started to think about issues of faith and god, and i'm like, oh, god, help me. >> for judy, transitioning back into a gay man was not a desirable option, and she turned to several religious organizations that view homosexuality as curable through faith. >> for the last couple of years i've been involved with a group called jonah. jonah is like an acronym. it stands for jews offering new alternatives to homosexuality. it's a group i'm involved with. there's a list serve where people that are struggling with unwanted homosexual desires,
they're working on those with psychoanalysis, reparative therapy, and we all share, you know, how things are going along our journey. >> but ultimately, joseph says, it was not religion or the organizations he became involved with that made him decide to switch back again and try and live a new life. >> yes, i was a spiritual person. i was seeking, but i wasn't going to allow my faith or nonfaith in a god that may or may not exist -- i wasn't going to allow something like that to be a decision-maker for me. my decision-making process was that i was not happy. it didn't feel like a genuine life. it wasn't who i really was. i felt like i had been pressured, under duress. growing up as a child with all the torment, the harassment, the name calling, i went into hiding.
>> but for michael burke, religion was the catalyst that inspired his transition back to living as a man. after almost two years of living as a woman, the problems that had plagued him as a man began to surface again. michelle struggled to maintain personal relationships, much less find an intimate one, and she felt lonely and unfulfilled. looking for a spiritual lift, she went to calvary chapel ft. lauderdale. the church is more than 18,000 strong and is pastored by the charismatic bob mccoy. >> jesus said in this world you will have tribulation. he said, be of good cheer. i've overcome the world. but i still reminded us in this world we will have tribulation. >> i had gone to that church with a friend of mine, and she liked going to hear pastor bob on saturday night, and i would go with her. the guy is amazing. i mean, he gives an amazing spiritual message. >> michelle began to search for her happiness at calvary. but michael says the church's
followers had an unexpected answer to his problems. >> at that point, i had no idea that they were ever going to ask me or try and change me, you know, it seems that jesus said to come as you are. it doesn't say come and change who you are. it says come as you are. i never dreamed in my wildest dreams that they would want to change me back into a guy because what does that have to do with spirituality? >> and these movies that always tell us what we believe -- >> but pastor bob coy argues differently. >> i would submit that god identified our sexuality, male and female, at the point of conception, and at that point, he's the one who says, this is what i have designed you to be. and i'm not here to tell other people how they should live unless they want to be a christian. and then christians would use the bible as a guide book and
that's when we would say, if god gave you a sex, then celebrate that sex. >> michelle liked the community of people at the church, and she was inspired to delve deeper into the faith by attending the small study classes. >> then they had me watch this video of a guy named sire rogers, who's a very big traveling christian evangelist. and cy rogers was not only a transsexual, but he was a homosexual. he got involved with the church, gave his life to jesus, became a man again, became a straight man, now has a beautiful family and a daughter. and that's the one thing i'm lacking in my life, is family. so if i switch back to being a man, then i'm going to get that. and i'm going to become whole,
and that's pretty much how they convinced me to switch back. >> coming up, joseph's stunning return to manhood. >> the transition to female took many years to perfect. but when i returned to living as male, it was almost instant. it? here's to more saturdays in the sun, and budgets better spent. here's to black friday prices that turn more shoppers into savers. to picking up. trading up. mixing it up. to well-earned muddy boots. and a lot more-spring per dollar. more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. black friday is back. now through wednesday save on these top brand project starters, just $8 each. so we've developed styles of beer to accompany that. we brew octoberfest, winter lager, alpine spring and right now, there's summer ale. [ bob cannon ] samuel adams summer ale is a flavorful wheat beer. it has a very nice spice note.
i made the decision to switch back. yes, i was coaxed by the church. but they were acting on their beliefs. and you can't blame them because that's what they believed. >> several weeks after michelle began attending small study groups at calvary chapel mega church in ft. lauderdale, she says she was convinced by the church's followers that the key to her happiness was to continue to living as a man.
so she shed her heels, red locks and provocative clothing. michelle never got the bottom surgery, but there was still the matter of her breast implants. michelle didn't have the money to remove them, but pastor bob coy knew a surgeon who would do it pro bono. michael says the surgeon moved the procedure along faster than he ever could have imagined. >> he came in, and he said, so when do you want the surgery? and i'm a very facetious person, so i said tomorrow. he said, okay, how's 10:00 a.m.? and i thought he was joking back with me, but he was serious. he said, i have an opening tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. so they were removed the very next morning at 10:00 a.m. >> after several months of attending calvary, michael was fully transformed back to being a man. but almost immediately he began to spiral into emotionally unstable behavior, something the church followers were perhaps unprepared for. >> i think they had his very
best interest in mind, but i think they also got in over their heads because i don't think that they were aware of the kinds of issues they were dealing with, with him. >> susan levin is a licensed clinical psychologist who worked with michael for almost eight years. she spoke to msnbc with michael's permission and says he is dealing with more than just gender identity issues. she has diagnosed him with borderline personality disorder. >> people with borderline personality disorder often have very intense and very unstable relationships with people. they have very much thinking of black and white and with no gray area. very extreme types of behaviors. >> levin says michael's borderline personality disorder complicates his gender identity issue. >> can i say with the utmost certainty that if he didn't have borderline personality disorder that he may not have done this?
i can't say because we can't separate those two things in one person. >> but she still differentiates between michael's mental health diagnosis and his desire for womanhood. >> he lived for a year as a woman before making drastic changes and not one day felt a moment of regret. his decision to go back to being a man was much more impulsive and much less thought out. >> this coming friday night, here's what i want to you do. >> pastor bob coy says what may not work for one can work for others, and that there are transgender people in his church who returned to their original gender and are living happily with their decision. michael's not the first person that's been disappointed by god or disappointed by the church. and some of that disappointment comes when certainly we expect god to sprinkle magic dust on our head and next thing you know we're different, as opposed to saying, like jesus said. if you want to follow me, you're going to have to pick up your
cross. you're going to have to deny yourself, and then you can come follow me. >> michael plans on staying a man, yet he is still unhappy with his decision. >> i think i would have continued growing as michelle because i was so comfortable in my outward appearance, that working on the inside would have been my primary focus. >> after 20 years of living as a woman, judy kirchner was no longer comfortable with how she looked or felt, and she was more than ready to switch back to living life as a man. >> i'm 40 years old, and i don't want to have to live another 20 years as female. i don't want to have to die like this. >> but when judy decided to transition back to being male, she didn't have the money for the surgery. and so she made a very public and very controversial plea with her website, help me reverse my sex change.org.
>> on my own, if i had to save $10,000 for -- to fix the chest, that might take me several years, and i don't want to wait several years. so i started this website, and maybe people that, you know, are compassionate might give some financial assistance to help me out. and, you know, to tell my story. >> judy's website was viewed as a betrayal by the transgender community, but in the end, it didn't solicit enough money, and she wound up using the last bit of her savings to make her transition back to being a man. >> you know, the transition to female took many years to perfect. but when i returned to living as male, it was almost instant.
>> judy began testosterone, cut her hair, and had her breasts removed. >> bye. >> and within a few months, she was back to living as a man. joseph has since had chest reconstructive surgery to make him appear more male. but there are some things that could not be reversed. >> no bottom surgery. i still have the altered equipment that appears female. and, you know, and functions like a female's. >> joseph's complicated situation makes him wary for others. >> i wouldn't discourage someone from having a sex change operation, but what i would do is ask them to explore all the other possibilities, take your time. there's no rush. no reason to rush into having surgery. i would hate for somebody to get all the way through surgery like i did and then find out years later that it was actually a mistake. >> coming up, joseph finally
accepts who he has become, but can he find the love he's always yearned for? >> it's not like i can go out and get a penis transplant or whatever, and i wouldn't want to. my body works just fine. i just need to find somebody who likes me the way i am. slip-on's the way to go. more people do that, security would be like -- there's no charge for the bag. thanks. i know a quiet little place where we can get some work done. there's a three-prong plug. i have club passes. [ male announcer ] get the mileage card with special perks on united, like a free checked bag, united club passes, and priority boarding. thanks. ♪ okay. what's your secret? [ male announcer ] the united mileageplus explorer card. get it and you're in. and then treats day after day... well, shoot, that's like checking on your burgers after they're burnt! [ male announcer ] treat your frequent heartburn by blocking the acid with prilosec otc. and don't get heartburn in the first place! [ male announcer ] one pill a day. 24 hours. zero heartburn.
people want to put people into boxes. either you're a male or you're a female. we don't want anything in between. there's nothing wrong with being anywhere on that scale. >> being a male in our society, you pretty much are expected to be masculine and dominant and manly. you know, being a woman was almost a breath of fresh air. >> michael burke and joseph kirchner have both made the same extraordinary journey from man to woman and back again.
but each feels dramatically different about their final destination. for michael, the return to manhood has been extremely difficult. >> i had three suicide attempts after i switched back to michael. i got involved in drugs again. major depression. when i was michelle, my phone rang all the time. do you want to go do this? do you want to go do that? michelle had a social life. michelle had people who wanted her in their lives. >> clinical psychologist susan levin, who treated michael for almost eight years, believes michael may have been happier as michelle. >> his persona changed. there was still drama in his life. there were still issues. but he really felt comfortable with him, with the way he looked for the first time in many years. i guess the best way to describe it would be he just seemed much more comfortable in his own skin as a woman. >> michael considered returning to live as a woman, going so far
as to get a prescription for female hormones, but ultimately he decided to stay a man. much of his reasoning was financial. he has no money for sexual reassignment surgery, and michelle's hair alone was $300 a month for upkeep. and i'm not going to wear a wig and taking it off and seeing myself with a bald head, i don't want to look in the mirror and not see a woman in my reflection. >> michael is slowly learning to embrace his decision, but he has no emotional support from his family, and few friends. still, he has worked hard to make a stable life for himself. he attends weekly sobriety meetings that have helped him stay clean for a year, has started socializing again, and has created an image that makes him feel safe. >> the biker thing is like my armor. no guy in their right mind is going to even think of bothering me, and that's the image i'm trying to put across.
>> but still there are small traces of the ultra-feminine michelle that survived. >> the bathroom is still the way michelle had it. it still has the pink butterfly towels. >> reminders of the woman he once was. >> i miss her so much that my life has been a daily struggle ever since i switched back. most of the time i'm in a state of meditation. looking for something in this world that i want, and i don't know what that is. and the only one thing that i do want would be to have never switched back from michelle to michael. >> but for joseph kirchner, he
couldn't be happier to be back living life as a man. >> it's good to be free of those 38-ddd boobs that were slanging around all the time. god. we all have our own style of presenting our gender. you know, between masculine and feminine. and i have found a way that i'm able to be comfortable with myself now. >> the key may be the fact that joseph has accepted a lot of things he once denied the first time he was a man. most importantly, being gay. he's even started a gay-lesbian transgender student group on the campus of the college he now attends. >> you know, i've matured so much now, and i have so much education about what it is to be gay and to have my own self sense of pride, my self esteem.
and it's great to be who i am now. >> but as much as joseph accepts where he is today, he admits that life is not easy. his beloved grandmother is gone. he's estranged from the rest of his family. and living as a gay man with female anatomy makes it difficult to find a loving relationship. >> you know, i can't do anything about my body the way it is. you know, it's not like i can go out and get a penis transplant or whatever, and i wouldn't want to. my body works just fine. i just need to find somebody who likes me the way that i am. >> looking back, there are few regrets. if anything, joseph feels grateful for the 20 years he spent as judy. >> it sounds weird to talk about judy as sort of like another person, but i am grateful for the time that judy was in my life. because judy did keep me alive when all hope seemed to be lost
in the life that i was living. >> in the end, joseph feels his story isn't so remarkable, not in the big picture sense anyway. it has some unusual complications and is full of painful struggles, but still, he says, it's just a story of the search for love and belonging. >> the day-to-day life of, you know, people in a relationship. you come home to your spouse every night, and you have dinner. you sit together on the couch and watch television or a movie together. you go to bed. you wake up the next day and go to work. you know, it's family. it's about family and about loving and caring for another person. and that makes me no different than anybody else on the planet.